Monthly Archives: May 2015

May 2015 Update

This month writing has been a bit slow, as I became a homeowner for the first time! The drag on my time1 may continue for a little bit longer, as my wife and I spend the next month on repairs and moving. And yet, I got a lot done…

1) Finished Meltwater, my posthuman romance story, and released it into the wild for its first submission.

2) Prepared two stories for release to markets that (re)open on June 1: one revision, and the first release of my contest-winner about Jews in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution. Consider them launched, albeit not until tomorrow morning.

3) Guest blog posting! Let me provide some useful science tips for writing about cyborgs!

4) Got my most interesting rejection letter ever. I’ve never before had a personal response wherein a reader just missed the point. To paraphrase: “The tone at the beginning was different from the ending.” Yes, that reversal of expectations is the joke; the threatening becomes humorous. “The description was lacking.” Yes, the POV character is not human, so she has unusual perceptual responses.

Oh well… After a day or two of frustration, I have decided to take it with amusement. A tiny bit of rewriting, and it’s already back off to its next submission!

 

And I’m back to the grind of rewriting. There’s always more awesome to include, isn’t there?

Cybernetics in SF Writing

My first-ever guest blog post is up at the Science in Science Fiction, Fact in Fantasy series on Dan Koboldt’s blog! If you want to learn some inside tips on how cybernetics really work — both modern and future-tech — you should follow that link and check it out!

Not only was it a lot of fun to work with Dan, we came to an amazing discovery together as we finalized the post. Once I move to St. Louis at the end of June, we will be working in the same building.

Go follow that link above to read my guest post, if you haven’t already! Because once you’ve read it, you’ll have enough context to understand these bonus bits of cyborg info. Consider this a reward for reading through from Dan Koboldt’s blog to mine!

  • Proprioception is what we call the sense of your body position in space. If your cyber-arm doesn’t have some way to deliver sensation (item #5 in my guest post), this is what you’ll lack. Life without proprioception is not impossible, but it is very hard. If you want to learn more about that life, there’s a 1997 BBC documentary about Ian Waterman, who lost all proprioception after an infection in 1971.
  • “Motor-control part of your brain” is a big but useful simplification. Your entire brain is involved in motor control, as implied by the last item in my guest post. There is one part of the brain that plays the biggest role in direct movement output: primary motor cortex, which controls movement kinematics and some kinds of skill learning, whereas other areas are more involved in motor plans, sequencing, preparation, etc.  However, primary motor cortex isn’t the only area that sends outputs down your spinal cord to your muscles. It’s the biggest source, but it still accounts for only ~40% of those outputs.
  • In the final part of my guest post, I boldly claimed that “cognitive” things like decision uncertainty end up reflected in “motor” things like hand trajectories. This also reveals a theory about the fundamental operation of the brain: we are always developing multiple plans for possible actions, and those plans exist in competition with each other until we select between them. Here is a scientific paper that reviews all these findings in lots more detail.
  • At the very end, I wrote, “Maybe controlling that second pair of arms is more like learning a second language.” Your brain handles things very differently when learned young, and language is just the most obvious example. (All child-learned languages involve a different part of your brain from adult-learned languages.) I’ve also just published a paper illustrating this in the motor system, but that would be a post of its own, if anyone’s interested.

One Sentence

Guess who won Steven Brust’s One-Sentence Worldbuilding Contest?

This writer!

For those of you too lazy to follow the link: I was one of the 5 winners1, with the sentence: The legionnaires drove the sandgrouse from the oasis, and the spirits from their shrines, but they could not quiet the ghosts on the salt-flat wind.”

It’s the first sentence for a story I never wrote for a deadline in March 2014, so it’s been bouncing around in my head for a while now. I even wrote two different ending scenes for a challenge on the Other Worlds writing group. But that’s as far as the story ever got, beyond a couple-sentence outline in the back of my head. I suppose I should get around to writing the Tragic Salt Mummy story one of these days!

April 2015 update

I guess the biggest news in my personal writing world is that Fictionvale is closing. Sad news! I had such a great editorial experience there. They’re still planning to release the final issue (with my story in it), but there is no official release date yet. So it goes.

I had been pounding through a couple of stories (new and revised both) for the Hidden Youth anthology, but the submission deadline got delayed from 4/30 to 7/31, so I now have a little breathing room to work on some other stuff and return later to my suite of stories about 19th-century Hungarian Jews.

What other stuff? Well, right now it’s back to my Conquistador Dragons story for another revision pass at long last. I’m also working on a short AI Romance piece that I threw together in 4 days for a challenge on the Other Worlds writing group. It needs some serious revision and clarification, but it’s a beauty!

What else? Got a membership for MidAmericon2 next year in Kansas City, got a bunch of rejection letters; excited for 4th Street Fantasy and for my upcoming move to St. Louis. Lots of neuroscience, blah blah day job phantom pain cortical sensory remapping.